View Full Version : Fic Challenge- First lines

October 7th, 2004, 08:29 PM
OK. Saw this challenge somewhere years ago and thought it sounded nifty.

Take the first line from a famous (or not so famous) book and build a story from it. Examples:

In a hole in a ground there lived a Hobbit.

All children, except one, grow up.

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf stream and he had gone 84 days now without taking a fish.

Call me Ishmael.

Sam Vimes sighed when he heard the scream, but he finished shaving before he did anything about it.

My father had a face that could stop a clock.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Those are, of course, merely examples. Feel free to choose your own. ;)

Keep 'em relatively short, remember the rules of the forum and above all, have FUN! :)

October 9th, 2004, 10:51 AM
i dont quite get what you mena. liek, do we have to name the episode after a certain "first line" or does it just have to tie into the plot?

how about: a long time ago in a galaxy far far away?

Mr Prophet
October 9th, 2004, 11:20 AM
I'm assuming we're supposed to start with the same first line. I hope so anyway; I'm already most of the way a fic one which begins:

"My father had a face that could stop a clock; he never knew it though. My mother had a presence that could halt armies in their tracks, but it meant nothing to her. My great-uncle successfully slipped his skin a dozen times - to the best of my knowledge a record - and he would never shut up about it until the day he finally slipped too far and 'went up to London', as the saying goes. All of my ancestors were in some way extraordinary; in fact, their extraordinariness was so very commonplace that most of them never knew it."

Of course, I'm not entirely sure it isn't cheating to use the line in its contextual meaning.

Oh, and a much coveted virtual one pun salute to anyone who can identify the - entirely canon - character narrating the fic.

October 9th, 2004, 12:02 PM
OK, this one's a bit sloppy and not nearly as funny as some of the challenges I've done in other places, but it's the best I could do on short notice. ;) I've made the first line a link to the corresponding book, The Lurker at the Threshold, but that's probably being a bit more meticulous than necessary. ;)

North of Arkham the hills rise, wild and wooded, and much overgrown, an area through which the Miskatonic flows seaward, almost at one boundary of the wooded tract. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0786711884/qid=1097347873/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-5631865-8056649?v=glance&s=books) Dr. Rodney McKay stood at the base of a blackened, gnarled tree and scowled up at the hills. "Whoever named this place ought to be shot," he announced, dropping his backpack.

"Oh, come off it, Rodney." Major John Sheppard, the leader of their expedition, grinned. "This place is great! You aren't gonna let a little thing like a name scare you, are ya?"

McKay turned to give him his best withering look. "I am hardly scared, Major, but naming things after places in horror novels is just asking for trouble."

"What, Arkham?" Sheppard gestured at the ruins behind them. "Batman is hardly a horror novel."

"I don't know, sir," Lt. Aidan Ford joined them, shading his eyes against the setting sun. "Arkham WAS an insane asylum."

McKay shook his head and knelt to dig through his pack. He knew they were baiting him and he refused to bite. He reminded himself that they were here to check out some Ancient artifacts. The sooner he examined them, the faster they could leave, and while his teammates might be convinced they were cultured because they'd both watched Batman, McKay knew that the reference went back further than that. He'd read all of H.P. Lovecraft's books as a kid, and they'd scared the hell out of him.

He finished setting up his instruments and focused his attention on the greenish black statue before him. It was weathered down and misshapen, but it was also giving off an unusual energy reading and he wanted to find out why, even if it meant spending a little time in the darkening woods.

Something rustled in the underbrush. McKay jumped, dropping the Ancient PDA Sheppard had let him borrow. "What the hell was that?" He demanded.

"Oooo, maybe it was a monster!" Ford made snarling noises. "It's coming for you, Dr. McKay! Raaarrrr!"

"Oh, yes, very mature." McKay glared at him, then looked around. "Where's Major Sheppard?"

"Communing with Nature." Ford nodded in the direction of the woods. "He should be back in a minute."

McKay sighed. "Perfect." He went back to work on the strange statue, willing it to reveal its secrets so they could all get the hell off Planet Yuggoth. He shuddered, once again promising dire things for the ******* responsible for naming things on the previous exploratory mission.

"You know, he has been gone a while," Ford said a few minutes later. "Maybe I should go check up on him."

McKay glanced up to see Ford checking the safety on his P-90. "You're kidding, right?"

"Stay here." Ford turned and entered the woods.

"This trip just keeps getting better and better," McKay muttered, trying to concentrate on his work.

The wind hissed through the trees, chilly and damp. He noticed tendrils of fog creeping towards him and tried hard to ignore them. "There's nothing in a name, Rodney," he told himself. "Stop being ridiculous."

Something crashed in the woods. He jumped to his feet, heart hammering.

"M-Major, is that you?" he called, scrabbling for his flashlight. He switched it on and swept the beam along the edges of the clearing. Nothing. And no answer to his call. He wished that the energy source didn't interfere with the radios, making it impossible to use them. "Aidan?" He said, starting to get annoyed. "Come on, guys, stop screwing around, this isn't funny!" Still no answer.

Another ruslte, and this time he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Something small and close to the ground was hurtling towards him from the darkness. It launched itself at him. He screamed, dropping his flashlight as the thing hit him in the chest. Claws dug into him and his hands brushed against leathery skin as he fell backwards. The thing on his chest snarled. He heard distant shouts and saw two flashlight beams bobbing towards him, but he knew they'd be too late. Something thin and role-like wrapped around his wrist. He screamed again, thrashing wildly.

"McKay!" Sheppard shouted, entering the clearing.

"Get it off me!" McKay yelled, pushing against the hot, leathery skin of the Lovecraftian nightmare.

Ford trained the flashlight on him and stared. Then he started to laugh. McKay couldn't believe it. "Hey! A little help, here!" he demanded.

Sheppard, too, was grinning. "Relax, Rodney, you're going to be fine."

"What!" McKay was stunned. Were they really going to watch him die?

Then he got his first clear look at the monster attacking him. Green slitted eyes regarded him from a small, narrow face. Whiskers brushed against his cheek as it pushed forward to nose him.


McKay flinched as it licked his chin with a raspy tongue.

"It looks... looks like you've made a new friend!" Ford said between bouts of laughter.

Sheppard frowned. "What is it? A hairless cat?"

McKay pushed the cat off him and stood, brushing the dirt and leaves off himself as he tried to muster his dignity. The cat twined between his legs, its ropy tail twitching from side to side.

"Yes, it does... somewhat resemble a Sphynx cat." McKay sniffed, glaring at the small animal. "Although I doubt that's what it is. Hairless cats are a recent aberration and I doubt the Ancients would have had any." He scowled at Ford, who was still giggling. "It wasn't that funny, Lieutenant."

"Yeah it was." Ford grinned.

"So what do we do with it," Sheppard asked.

"It's not MY responsibility," McKay said. "Now if you'll excuse me, SOME of us are trying to work!" He knelt to look at the statue again. He thought he'd seen a cover plate. Maybe he could get at the statues internal mechanisms. He did his best to ignore the cat, who was rubbing against his legs and purring.

Hidden deep in the cave below them, guarded only by the last, dying sentinel statue, the dark enemy of the Ancients stirred, its thousand eyes flickering open.

Mr Prophet
October 9th, 2004, 02:07 PM
See, that's just weird and creepy, because this is the one I have in mind - cats and Lovecraft once again. As with Shadow's, not the best work I've done and it may not make much sense until I get around to typing up the notes for I, Schrodinger. Please try to imagine that Buxton has an appropriate Yorkshire accent (and yes, MC, I know the town is in Derbyshire).

The first line is from The Eyre Affair and the title is another Ffordian allusion, one with connotations of really weird physics and bad maths.

The Lucasion Occasion

My father had a face that could stop a clock; not that he ever knew it. My mother had a presence that could halt armies in their tracks, but it meant nothing to her. My great-uncle successfully slipped his skin a dozen times - to the best of my knowledge a record - and he would never shut up about it until the day he finally slipped too far and 'went up to London', as the saying goes. All of my ancestors were in some way extraordinary; in fact, their extraordinariness was so very commonplace that most of them never knew it. The people around them were utterly oblivious of course, but then humans so often are.
The fact that my great-uncle recognised his own unusual resilience suggests that he was more of my kind. I was dimly conscious of my abilities from an early age - maybe as a result of growing up around physicists - although I only gained full awareness when that rat-swine Narim put me in his machine. Oh, it was a pretty speech he gave: No more disease, no more worm tablets, tripled life expectancy. He failed to mention the drawback, although admittedly that was because he didn't know about it. There are few crueller things to do to a cat than to coalesce their perceptions and their instincts into true consciousness. It's bad enough being able to see distortions in the space-time continuum, without feeling the need to do something about it.
Keeping the Tollan from messing around with time was bad enough. For a supposedly advanced race they were remarkably slow on the uptake; they kept on asking how I got into the temporal research labs, but none of them ever seemed to wonder why. I could have told them of course, but even among the Tollan a talking cat wouldn't have had anything to look forward to but a short trip to the vivisection lab.
Since the destruction of Tollana, however, I had been looking back on those balmy salad days of broken circuits and extremely tricky sabotage - have you ever tried sabotaging a Tollan etheric circuit without the use of opposable thumbs? - with considerable fondness. Even aside from the relentless threat of the Apocalypse Child, the ability to perceive the world in four dimensions is a constant trial; the occasional attack by Tindlehounds is just icing on the cake.
"I reckon the brute caught sight of you when you passed through the stasis threshold on Tollana," Buxton mused, idly cleaning a paw.
"I suppose," I agreed, as I stared tensely around me. A massive paw swept out at me from the transtemporal blur of the beast's body, the blow coming from above and to the right and about six seconds in the future. That's the problem with five dimensional assailants; they don't necessarily have to strike at where you are, they can go for where you were or where you will be as well. Fortunately, I inherited my father's face and so I nipped swiftly to my left while remaining motionless in time. "You couldn't give me a hand, could you?" I asked, with forced politeness.
"Love to, my dear chap," Buxton assured me, in the over-formal drawl of a mining baron. The door began to slide open and the big, blue tom jammed his paw down on the controls to block it. "As you see, however, I have to stay where I am. We wouldn't want poor Juna getting in that brute's way now, would we?"
"Quite," I agreed, tersely. "So why don't I take a turn on the door while you play with Fido?"
"I never caught the gaze of a Hound of Tindalos," Buxton reminded me. "He's here to kill you so you have to keep moving. Stands to reason."
As though summoned by its name, the Tindlehound came fully into my timeframe, the large, lean frame resolving from the blur of motion. It looked like a greyhound, and an especially ugly one at that, with bluish pus covering its skin, if indeed that was not the skin itself. I hesitated to strike back at the beast for fear of getting that slime on my paws. It lunged at me with its long jaws, this time attacking from two directions and three time zones at once. I retreated from the obvious threat and almost stumbled straight into the hound as it made an objectively simultaneous manifestation behind me; its temporal movement was uncannily quiet and without the skirl of space-time distortion which usually accompanies fourth-dimensional movement there was no warning of the sneak attack.
There was a blur of motion and then I was moving sideways. Buxton dragged me out from between the Tindlehound's jaws and deposited me roughly on a clear patch of floor. I barely had time to register that he had moved before he was sitting nonchalantly back in place by the door. I struggled up and ducked another swipe.
"You could give me a hint, at least!" I accused. I lashed out as a paw came close; the slime was as horrid as I had suspected, but more than that, the mere touch of the creature's yielding flesh made my leg go numb.
"Don't touch it and don't let it touch you," Buxton suggested.
"Hah!" I snarled, angrily. "Fat lot of good you are, Mr Hoity-Toity Castellan."
"I've not spent all that time on your training so you can come running to me every time you're in trouble," Buxton replied, primly. "You want to look out for your own wellbeing, else how can you look after your precious Juna."
"Vida seems to trust me," I taunted. The Hound made a clever, paraspatial feint, but I dodged it by standing perfectly still.
"The Princess Sangivida needs to learn a thing or two about trust." He sighed in despair as the Tindlehound almost clobbered me with a tricky retrotemporal manoeuvre. It was only instinct that saved me from that one, reflexes hardwired into my central nervous system twisting me out of the way of a blow I never saw coming until it had fallen.
I looked on in mounting terror as the Hound wound up for the attack which it had made moments before. Even to a cat it's pretty weird to be near-gutted by a set of claws moving backwards through time.
"Haven't you learned anything?" Buxton demanded, closing the door on our human friends once more. "Study your enemy; see how he moves."
"See how...! He barely moves in space at all; he just..."
"Hallelujah," Buxton whispered.
Understanding now, I did study the hound - not the way he travelled in space but how he moved through time. I had assumed his ability was similar to the one I used to slow or accelerate my own passage within the fourth dimension, just much more advanced. Now I came to look more closely, however, I saw that he was not moving in the long curves I used to distance myself from the zero line - the more-or-less fixed pace of historical progression. Instead, the Hound was darting here and there in straight lines, then angling back to the zero, which was impossible. If you left the line without a little bit of spin you would just drift off into space-time, or I would anyway. A human would probably just go insane and die of shock in less than a heartbeat, which could take anything from a fraction of a second to half-a-million years.
So, I reasoned, if he can move on angles the way I can't, perhaps he can't circle like I can. Good in theory, but it was going to be difficult to pull off anything that would be useful. Oh well; 'fortune favours the incredibly stupid' as my old keeper, Captain Carter, used to say.
I looked up at the Hound as it tensed to spring. I waited. He sprang. I stayed where I was.
A trace of uncertainty entered the Hound's muddy, witless eyes as it twitched itself sideways so as to land where I was rather than where it had thought I was going to be; as complex a temporospatial operation as any I've seen. That was when I sprang, launching myself in an accelerated loop past its nose. Momentarily off balance - temporally speaking - the hound suddenly found itself dragged into my wake, but where my arc landed me smoothly on my feet, ten feet away from and far less than a second after my starting point, the Hound was launched, uncontrolled into the vortex, scrabbling madly at a curve which refused to give purchase to its angular, pandimensional presence.
"Not bad," Buxton allowed, finally letting the door slide open. "I'd have done it differently, but...awk!" He broke off in a squawk as Trini snatched him into her arms, a ridiculous sight as Buxton was a big cat and she was a very small Tollan.
"Oh, Bucky!" the diminutive temporal engineer cried, scratching Buxton's head affectionately. "We were so worried."
Buxton gave a plaintive mewl, caught as always between his hatred of being called 'Bucky' and his helplessness before Trini's exceptionally empathic head-scratching. I would have laughed, but I've let myself be called worse in exchange for less.
Juna came over and knelt in front of me. She might be younger than Trini, but she was wiser in the ways of cats. She reached out and stroked my head, fondly. "Are you alright, Schrödinger?" she asked.
"Absolutely," I replied with false confidence, as a slender tortoiseshell pushed her way past the girl. "Highness," I greeted her with a bow.
"Schrödinger," Sangivida responded, with an adorable wrinkle of her nose. "You smell vile."
"Yes, Highness," I agreed. "I never thought I'd say it, but I think I need a bath."
Sangivida nodded once, then rounded on the struggling Buxton. "Castellan!" she snapped. "How dare you seal this space against us? We are your princess, are we not?"
Buxton managed to pull himself free of Trini's arms, but consented to allow her to kneel beside him and stroke his back. "I serve the Great Queen and your safety is my charge, Highness," he replied. "A little lower, Trini, love," he murmured in an aside.
Sangivida bristled. "I can handle a Tindlehound," she insisted.
"I know," he assured her, evenly. "I needed to know if he could, if I am ever to leave you alone with him."
"That was a test?" I asked, incredulous.
"I didn't plan it, but it served." He paced to the door, deftly evading Trini on the way. "Let's get some dinner; fighting always makes me hungry."
"That cat's arrogance makes my whiskers twitch," Sangivida hissed.
I glowered after Buxton, but I suppose in the final analysis he did save my life. "Harrumph," I harrumphed. "Maybe he's right."
"I'll decide who I stay with," the princess assured me.
"I know," I agreed. "I meant he's right, we should get some dinner. Fighting makes me hungry too."

A brief note to Mythos fans: I know that the Hounds of Tindalos probably shouldn't be beatable, but I figure in Lovecraft at least, cats were trumps. Guy liked his felines almost as much as he hated his Esquimo.

Tok'Ra Hostess
October 10th, 2004, 07:21 AM
The Lucasion Occasion

It's bad enough being able to see distortions in the space-time continuum, without feeling the need to do something about it.

Prophet, this is a great short! Send it to Asimov's or Fantastic Stories (or the equivalent in your country), man! :)

Mr Prophet
October 10th, 2004, 11:47 AM
Prophet, this is a great short! Send it to Asimov's or Fantastic Stories (or the equivalent in your country), man! :)

I'm flattered, really, but the thing does rip off at least three sets of intellectual property. I think the Cthulhu mythos is fairly PD, but I'm less sure about The Magic Roundabout.